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Biomedical Engineering major, Math minor

  1. May 27, 2012 #1
    I am a freshman Biomedical Engineering student, and I have recently discovered my passion for math. The earlier Calculus was fine and all, but not quite my cup of tea. Then multivariable Calc came along and I liked that even better, and now I'm in Linear Analysis and I love it. Especially the more theoretical topics like subspaces, spanning sets, basis, linear independence, etc. So I'm seriously considering doing a minor in math.

    But I'm having a dilemma. I'm starting to enjoy mathematics more than engineering. Or at least more than the engineering I have been introduced to, which is very little. I haven't even taken a REAL Biomed class yet, just the intro ones which don't even count. Statics just bores the hell out of me. Though I'm taking Dynamics next quarter which is supposedly more interesting.

    My question is, if I end up not enjoying Biomedical Engineering, should I just switch to Mathematics? Is there a job market in math??

    Or if I end up liking Bmed, should I stick with it and forget my passion for math? Is there a more mathematical side of Biomedical Engineering that I could go into? I'm thinking about going to grad school and going the research route, by the way.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated... I'm very conflicted right now.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2012 #2
    I am literally in the EXACT same position as you... I'm also interested in hearing what people have to say about this. The biological engineering program at my school seems to be less math heavy than at other schools. Unfortunately my school's math departments is not separated into pure math and applied math so if I switched, I would be forced to take quite a few "pure" courses. But who knows, maybe I would like them!
  4. Jun 6, 2012 #3
    Imaging and anything neuro related are all extremely heavy on math. If you are doing tissue or cell engineering, you'll be doing less math and more biology.
  5. Jun 6, 2012 #4
    I don't know much about biomedical.

    You probably don't want to end up like me. I ditched electrical engineering for math. Now, I am almost done with a PhD, but I am overwhelmed and not very happy about having to work so hard for something that doesn't appear to have good practical uses. So, I am considering going back to electrical engineering, among other things. Ultimately, science and engineering turned out to be more interesting to me than pure math was because pure math gets too removed from reality for my taste. Some people are okay with that. But the novelty of mathematical thinking may wear off after a while. After seeing 200 cool geometrical arguments, the 201st one isn't quite so cool. It's more routine. I guess that applies to life in general. Many of my fellow math students end up in a similar existential crisis to the one I am facing. Evidently, 90% of math PhDs don't do any more original work after they finish their PhDs. Some may lack talent or drive, but I bet a lot of them just lose interest after having their fill of math, and seeing what they are up against to continue with a research-oriented career.

    You may like math, but if you say you like pizza, that doesn't mean you want to be forced to eat 4 whole pizzas a day. Unfortunately, that's basically what happens to you in grad school. Not for the faint of heart.

    There are jobs for math majors, and more for people with a masters or PhD. Getting a double major in math isn't too bad of an option, but going to grad school could well make you go crazy, though, if you are not the right type of person. I am a pretty intelligent, obsessive math freak, and it pretty much made me go crazy. Lots of other pretty intelligent people quit grad school before it made them go crazy.
  6. Jun 7, 2012 #5
    What about applied math? I am interested in either:

    -being able to apply math (or physics) to biological problems but not in the same way that engineers do. Instead of designing instrumentation, drug delivery systems, etc I am interested in mathematical models that describe biological systems.

    -geophysics, similar to what I was talking about with biology but geared towards geological phenomena such as earthquakes (tectonics) or earth's magnetic field.

    I have heard that for either of these paths, a mathematics (or physics) background would be good, and in my opinion probably BETTER than engineering. So in my case, I would be going to graduate school for something other than mathematics.
  7. Jun 7, 2012 #6
    There's always R&D going on with big companies like Philips, GE, Siemens, J&J, etc. in medical imaging, monitoring, etc. devices. IMO, it's never too early to start making connections. I'd contact them, and let them know you are interested in the technical/mathematical development and implementation of medical technology. If you express an interest, they may invite you up for a look-see, and you may be able to lay the groundwork for some work study, internship, etc., or at least a future job interview. My son did a job shadow at GE and loved it. They were interested in the students too, and these were high school kids getting ready for college. I suspect they do these things shopping for prospects, but it may just be them being nice.
  8. Jun 7, 2012 #7
    In some branches of applied math, I would imagine having a little more motivation, but a lot of what's called "applied" math isn't actually very applied.
  9. Jun 7, 2012 #8
    Very interesting... Please explain.
  10. Jun 7, 2012 #9
    I have a friend who works on some kind of math related to super-conductivity, but he complains that all this work is being done, just to get a new estimate or something (so, some inequality on the solution to a PDE, I guess). That sort of thing could be potentially be useful, but according to him, he doesn't see the use of it. A lot of times, applied mathematicians are just studying models that came up in applications. But they might study them in a completely mathematical way that may or may not actually be applicable.
  11. Jun 7, 2012 #10
    So basically what you are telling me is that applied physics is more along the lines of what I am interested in?
  12. Jun 7, 2012 #11
    I don't know. Maybe applied math would work out for you. Just look at PhD programs and see what they have if you're thinking about grad school.
  13. Jun 7, 2012 #12
    Yeah, Neural Engineering looks really interesting to me. I'll have to look more into that. One specialization that is really interesting to me is Neurohydrodynamics - researching/engineering the effects of the fluid dynamics in the brain on cerebrospinal fluid disorders like Alzheimer's. And I hear that fluid dynamics is really mathematical, so I'll probably really like it - I'm taking that winter quarter this year.

    Yeah.. I really like math but this was one of the things that worried me about potentially switching into it- pulling my hair learning an extremely difficult subject that may or may not be fruitful in terms of jobs.
  14. Jun 7, 2012 #13

    wow if even you get burned out that makes me question my recent choice to change my major to math. :frown:

    So if you could do it all over what would you major in? Would you get a phd?
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